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Honour of Himalayas at stake

Honour of Himalayas at stake

Author: Sandhya Jain
Publication: Organizer
Date: April 27, 2005

The honour of the Himalayas is at stake. Just four years after Pakistan's ignominious defeat at Kargil, its military oligarchy appears set to achieve its goals by other means. The UPA's 'Open Borders' policy is creating an untenable situation in the country and in the absence of a sharply articulated opposition to Islamabad's 'walk-in' infiltration policy, there is a real danger that our national security and territorial integrity may be seriously compromised.

The first wake up call came during the course of the recent cricket tour by the Pakistani team in March, when it was discovered that 11 so-called "fans" did not return home from Mohali, causing suspicion that they may be Pakistani intelligence agents or terrorist operatives taking advantage of India's liberal visa policy.

The second and more serious alert has come with a Pakistani woman, Farida Ghani, arriving on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad peace bus and filing claims for restoration of ancestral property which her father abandoned when opting for Pakistan. The claim is not as innocuous as it may appear on the surface. When millions of Hindus were forced to flee both East and West Pakistan (indeed, the violence against Hindus was the reason why Congress leaders conceded the Partition), it was the Government of India that was responsible for their rehabilitation. I am not aware of any compensation package from Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah's government, though we are all aware that Mahatma Gandhi fasted unto death to ensure that Pakistan received Rs. 55 crores from the Indian treasury and thereby facilitated its first war upon India.

Yet Chief Minister Mufti Mohd Sayeed, who has done nothing for the Pandits who were cleansed out of the valley, lost no time in promising that his government would evict occupants of evacuee properties when the former owners returned. This is patently absurd both by the statute of limitations as well as the law of adverse possession. Indeed, it points to a more sinister conspiracy.

A brief digression is in order to understand Mufti's promise. Two decades ago, J & K passed the Resettlement Act 1982 which permitted those who migrated to Pakistan between 1947 and 1954 to return and claim rights as Indian citizens. The Act proposed setting up a competent authority to scrutinize applications of those seeking resettlement in J & K. Governor B.K. Nehru returned the Bill to the Assembly and in September 1982 President Giani Zail Singh sought an opinion from the Supreme Court regarding its constitutional validity. The Supreme Court returned the Presidential reference in 2000 without giving an opinion, but has currently issued a stay on the Act.

The Act violates the provisions of the Indian constitution and those of the Indian Citizenship Act. If implemented, it could cause more than two lakh Pakistani claimants, many of whom are active members of the Taliban, to descend upon the country. But what is at stake is not just some landed property of one person or one lakh persons, but the possibility that grounds are being laid for turning Kashmir into India's East Timor. This threat already exists in the north-east where Christian missionaries are not shy of using violence in pursuit of their conversion agenda. There is a real fear that Mufti may seek National Conference assistance in passing the Resettlement Act 1982 once again during the next session of the State Assembly. He would thus actively tilt the demography of the area in favour of Pakistan. After that, a little violence is all that would be needed to bring in the UN and a referendum!

Mercifully, the Joint Action Committee Evacuees Property, an umbrella group of twelve refugee committees, has jumped into the fray. The organization has rightly accused the PDP-Congress regime of duplicity in offering citizenship rights and properties to bona fide Pakistani citizens while refugee families in Jammu are denied rights over ancestral properties and citizenship for more than 50 years and live as outsiders in their own land.

Most alarming, however, is the report from a Srinagar daily, which claims that India and Pakistan have secretly agreed to redefine the borders without conceding any major part of J & K territory to each other. This solution has reportedly been discussed with the Mirwaiz Omar Farooq-led All Parties Hurriyat Conference, which accepted it, but the Geelani group rejected it.

The purported plan - which facilitates an easy annexation of J & K by Pakistan - envisages granting greater autonomy to both parts of J&K. India would grant Kashmir its pre-1953 status which gives the State full autonomy in all respects barring foreign affairs, communications and defence. The Governor and Chief Minister would be known as the President and Prime Minister respectively. Pakistan would similarly extend greater autonomy to so-called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Ultimately, it is said, the secret deal envisages converting the Line of Control into an international border, with some minor modifications.

All this underlines, more than ever before, the need for a serious rethink on the continuance of Article 370 by all nationalist parties. Since the Indian Parliament had twice passed a Resolution staking claim to all of Jammu & Kashmir that acceded to India in 1948, there is no reason to believe that political parties will not take the threat seriously if properly acquainted with the facts. A beginning must be made in this direction without further delay.

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